Auburn, Ala.--On an opening night the Auburn offense struggled there was a lot to like about the play of the Tigers’ defense, which held a high-powered Clemson offense led by Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson to 19 points.
Many players, both experienced and not, stepped up for new coordinator Kevin Steele’s defense, including veteran defensive back Josh Holsey.
“Like I told the guys before the game, this is our game to come out and make a statement and show the world that we’re a defense that is going to play the best each and every week,” Holsey says.
“We’re a defense that is going to be reckoned with for the year,” the redshirt senior adds. “We’re trying to be the top defense in the country and I feel like if we keep working and keep doing what we can do, we can be the top defense in the country.”
There was no doubting the talent level on the defensive line heading into the season opener, a 19-13 loss to Clemson. Holsey notes that it was good to see the front four play up to expectations.
“They’re the best front four in America, hands down,” Holsey contends. “At least I feel like that. They work hard. Coach (Rodney) Garner has the guys each and every day working to be the best they can be. It shows in the game because they get to the quarterback with no problem each and every play.”
According to Holsey, it was part of Auburn’s game plan to not allow the Clemson star to beat the Tigers with his legs.
“He’s kind of better outside the pocket than inside the pocket,” Holsey explains of Watson’s playmaking ability in the backfield. “When he’s outside the pocket his accuracy is really, really great so we just tried to contain him a little bit and make him throw some crazy balls.
“Hopefully we would make him do something crazy that he’s not normally used to (doing). He had a lot of batted balls last year so we had a big emphasis of trying to get the ball batted at the line of scrimmage. That was the whole game plan. Don’t let him get in that rhythm. I think we did our game plan to perfection.”
The breakout performer for Auburn was a first-time starter at linebacker, redshirt sophomore Deshaun Davis, who Holsey says “might be” only person on defense smarter than himself. Holsey has high praise for the former Vigor High star.
“I’ve been waiting to watch Deshaun since the spring,” Holsey points out. “They finally gave him the chance. He’s one of the smartest defensive players we have. I’ve been waiting to watch him play. That linebacker corps is going to do nothing but get better.”
As for his individual performance, Holsey came through with a momentum-swinging interception in the third quarter to go along with three tackles and two deflected passes.
I felt like I played pretty good,” he says. “I could always do better. There’s never a perfect game. It’s never as bad as you think and never as good as you think.
“I played good for how long I’ve been out and coming off of my second ACL (injury),”?he adds. “People probably doubted if I could still play or not. It was a game to come out and show that I can still play.”